With Christmas just around the corner, we have a little trivia question for you real quick:
What was the most popular toy for boys for Christmas 1973?
If you answered the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle you’d be 100% correct.
Growing up in the 1970s, you’d be hard pressed to find any young American boy who didn’t idolize the larger-than-life Evel Knievel and want his toy stunt cycle under their tree. Indeed, to many kids of the ‘70s, he was more than just a daredevil; he was a rock star, folk legend, and superhero all rolled into one.
The Roots of Evel
Robert Craig Knievel was born in Butte, Montana, on October 17, 1938. When Robert was eight years old, his grandparents took him to an auto stunt show featuring race car driver and daredevil Joie Chitwood. Knievel immediately fell in love with stunt performing and would later say that it was this event that influenced his future career decision.
At school Knievel was a star athlete in track and field and hockey but struggled with his classes. Consequently, he would drop out of high school and go on to work a variety of odd jobs around Butte. The young Knievel also often found himself in trouble with law. In fact, it was during one of these brushes the police that Robert found himself in jail and, as legend goes, where he got his notorious moniker.
In 1956, Knievel had stolen a motorcycle and crashed it during the subsequent police chase. He was quickly apprehended and taken to jail where he ended up sharing a cell with one William Knofel. Apparently, the night watchman like to give his prisoners nicknames, so during his rounds that night, he came upon the two and dubbed them “Awful” Knofel and “Evil” Knievel. Knievel liked it so much that he would later legally change his name to “Evel” because he thought that spelling just looked better.
The Daredevil Gets His Due
After a stint in the Army serving as a paratrooper, Evel found himself back in Butte working a variety of different jobs from hockey team owner to motorcycle racer to insurance salesman. In 1966 Knievel, moved to Moses Lake, Washington, where he found work in a motorcycle shop.
To promote the motorcycle shop, he announced that he would jump his motorcycle 40 feet over parked cars and a box of rattlesnakes. He made the jump in front of a crowd of 1,000 people, but landed on the rattlesnakes at the end; nevertheless, he was still able maintain control of the motorcycle as the crowd went crazy. Evel Knievel had finally found his calling.
Following the rattlesnake jump, Evel Knievel would go on to form his own stunt cycle troupe called “Evel Knievel and his Motorcycle Daredevils”. However, after a few crashes and a lot of broken bones, Evel had to step back from the daredevil business.
It wouldn’t take long for Evel to get back into the game, however, and it would be in Las Vegas that he would get his big break – both literally and figuratively.
The Daredevil’s Playgrounds
While walking around Sin City, Evel stopped outside of Caesar’s Palace and got the idea of jumping his motorcycle across the casino’s long fountains. After promoting the idea to Caesar’s Palace CEO Jay Sarno, the jump was set for the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 1967. Evel would end up crashing in front of the large crowd that gathered, crushing his pelvis and femur and breaking his hip, wrist and both ankles. He also suffered a concussion that would land him in a coma for 29 days. Still, the legend of Evel Knievel grew.
Other stunts including a failed jump in 1974 over the Snake River Canyon in a modified rocket he called the Skycycle X-2 and a failed attempt to jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in 1975. The Wembley jump would leave him with a broken pelvis. Refusing to be carried out, he somehow managed to walk to the microphone tell the crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen of this wonderful country, I’ve got to tell you that you are the last people in the world who will ever see me jump. Because I will never, ever, ever jump again. I’m through.”
He would, however, go on to jump 14 Greyhound buses at King’s Island near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1975. Two years later, he would abort a jump over a shark tank after losing control of his motorcycle and crashing into a cameraman. During this semi-retirement, Evel would also promote his son, Robbie Knievel, who followed in his father’s daredevil footsteps.
All in all, the career of Evel Knievel spanned from 1965 to 1980. As a professional daredevil, Knievel attempted or successfully jumped over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps, as well as his failed 1974 X-2 Skycycle rocket jump.
Evel Knievel, the man who once said, “I beat the hell out of death” finally gave into it on November 30, 2007.
Evel Never Dies
“America’s Legendary Daredevil” lives on, however, at the Evil Knievel Museum in Topeka, Kansas. Located next to the Historic Topeka Harley Davidson, the museum was established and founded in 2017 by Mike Patterson, Lathan McKay and James Caplinger and houses over 13,000 square feet of Evel Knievel memorabilia spread over two stories.
Highlights include Knievel’s original jump bikes, performance leathers, helmets and wardrobe, the Skycycle X-2, both his Caesars Palace and Wembley Stadium crash helmets, and so much more. There’s even an exhibit on his whole line of Ideal toys, so you can feel like it’s Christmas 1973 all over again.
The Museum is open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Sundays and Mondays. The admission prices are: $15 for adults, $7 for kids ages 8-16, and those aged 7 and under are admitted free. As always, you can call 785-215-6205 for hours and more information, especially if you’re traveling there during the holidays.
Now that you know how Evel Knievel rolled, how about we tell you how we here at Stuckey’s roll?
We start by mixing together a light, fluffy nougat with maraschino cherries. Next, we dip that nougatty goodness in plenty of freshly-made, buttery caramel. Finally, we top it all off by hand-rolling all of this deliciousness in chopped Georgia pecan pieces.
And that’s how we roll – with the Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll, that is!
With Christmas just a few days away, why not order some Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls for the holidays? They not only make great gifts, but they’re also a big hit at company Christmas parties. (They also make great stocking stuffers for your little daredevils and angels who made it to Santa’s “Nice” list this year.)
You’ll find our Pecan Log Rolls and other great gift ideas at stuckeysgifts.com and stuckey’s.com, but you got to hurry and order by December 14th for Christmas delivery.
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips (and Holidays) Fun Again!
Whether your next road trip is by car or by rail, it’s not really a road trip without taking Stuckey’s along. From our world famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to our mouthwatering Hunkey Dorey, Stuckey’s has all the road trips snacks you’ll need to get you where you’re going.
For all of the pecany good treats and cool merch you’ll need for your next big road adventure, browse our online store now!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!